King Norodom Sihanouk on Thursday expressed support for royal succession legislation proposed by Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers, telling them it’s “not insulting to discuss” the matter, opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay said.
The King met with Son Chhay, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and Senators Ou Bunlong and Meng Rita at the Royal Palace for two hours.
Opposition lawmakers have proposed several amendments to the current provisions for the Throne Council, the body responsible for selecting the next monarch.
The existing law does not clarify what type of majority is required of the nine-member council, composed of political and religious leaders. The opposition’s proposal calls for a unanimous agreement of all nine members.
“The King said this is something that we need to have [clarified], and that naturally a country must have laws to ensure rule of law and stability,” Son Chhay said. “This law [aims to] avoid any turmoil once the King dies.”
Officials from the Royal Palace could not be reached on Thursday for comment or confirmation.
Meng Rita confirmed Son Chhay’s account. The King did not propose his own solution but emphasized the need for more specificity in the law, the senator said.
The proposal allows any direct descendant of the King to be considered for the throne, whether his mother is a royal or a commoner.
It also provides for the Queen to act as Regent if the King is away or incapacitated.
“Right now, the Senate president is empowered to be Regent while the King is away,” but all the political parties stand behind the Queen, Son Chhay said.
The King did not comment on current leaders—by the Constitution, he is not to involve himself in politics.
“But he said again and again, and even allowed me to tell reporters, that he is very satisfied with the law that will work out the Throne Council to select a successor to the King,” Son Chhay said.
Royal succession is usually considered taboo to discuss because it hinges on the King’s death. Prime Minister Hun Sen recently suggested the issue should not be raised.
But at Thursday’s meeting, the King said lawmakers are free to talk about it, citing the proverb “a little prevention is worth a lot of cure.”
“The King said, ‘My life is not eternal. People can discuss this,’” Meng Rita said.
The politicians asked the King about the field of candidates for the throne. Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh recently declared that neither he nor his uncle, Funcinpec Secretary- General Prince Norodom Sirivudh, want to be king.
Instead, Prince Ranariddh indicated he would support his half-brother Prince Norodom Sihamoni, Cambodian ambassador to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris.
While the King understandably chose not to play favorites among his sons, he seemed supportive of Prince Sihamoni, Son Chhay said. “We seemed to have the King’s satisfaction and approval of the character of Prince Norodom Sihamoni,” he said.
“With his relatively clear support, we can now work out a reserve king—it’s needless to wait until the death of the King,” the lawmaker said, noting that many other monarchies name a Crown Prince while the king is still alive.
The opposition’s draft law allows the King to propose potential successors to the Throne Council for examination, he added.
Son Chhay said he will send another copy of the draft law, incorporating the King’s comments, to the National Assembly today to push the legislature to take it up.
In a discussion of border issues, the King agreed that protecting Cambodia’s territorial integrity is essential and recounted some of his experiences with the matter as head of state in the 1960s, Son Chhay said.